Many of us are struggling to get any restful sleep these days during recommended COVID-19 sheltering. Here are a few holistic tips on how to make the most of these important 7-8 hours at night. Our goal to move as quickly as possible to the deeper stages of sleep where healing takes place and memory is consolidated. For perspective, there are five stages in one sleep cycle. Ideally, we go through 5-6 sleep cycles each night, each stage lasting ~20 minutes, and each cycle about 1.5 hours.
General Health Tips
• Support the ‘why’ of your life journey. Get in touch with your spiritual self by walking in nature, reading scripture, attending live stream worship services of your choice, volunteering to share your time and talents with your neighborhood and community.
• Address your deepest emotional concerns with a friend, or professional if necessary (National Alliance on Mental Illness @ https://www.nami.org), to divest yourself of chronic worry and stress.
• Walk at least ½ hour a day outside in the fresh air whenever possible. Look up the healing properties of phytoncides and fractals in the forest. Walk in the forest. Watch the animals. Study the flora.
• Use all of your senses to create a positive healing environment in your home (e.g., play your favorite music, light scented candles, pick and display fresh flowers, drink water, green tea or another healthy beverage of choice, hug your household family members multiple times each day).
• Maintain a ‘cup is half full’ mentality when faced with the daily grind of COVID-19 news – limit the amount of daily news feeds you will read/watch to avoid becoming over saturated with the negatives. This positive attitude translates into better dreams.
• Smile and say ‘thank you’ as much as possible to folks serving our community (e.g., healthcare professionals, support staff, grocery store clerks, pharmacists/drug store personnel, your mail person, etc). Send a handwritten thank you note to your favorites.
• Wear a protective face mask when you are out in public. Honor required social distancing restrictions as the new normal for your mental health and overall safety.
Preparing for Sleep Each Evening
• Follow a daily sleep routine.
• Take a hot shower in the evening to relax your muscles and wind down.
• Practice ‘letting go’ of any need for constant control, understanding the world just became a level playing field. We’re all learning a new paradigm for living. Be patient with yourself.
• Avoid drinking an alcoholic beverage as a night cap (e.g., alcohol relaxes a muscle in the back of your throat making it harder to breath and causing a more fragmented sleep).
• Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, cool (temperatures around 65-68°F help your body’s natural melatonin level to rise and will assist you in falling asleep).
• Watch a funny movie or You Tube together with your family before bedtime (e.g., Kay Pruitt’s link on how to make a face mask (I’m still laughing at this one – cut and paste this link into your internet browswer @ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4c5eo_3-y0&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0d_FCu9TPBQxCGmdMYO1m6UtkrgwW6KjWDcbslz9KN9QSsCPCIzpTb0DI ).
• Stay off technology after 6 pm to avoid blue light overstimulation.
• Enjoy a cup of a relaxing tea (e.g., decaffeinated green, lavender, chamomile, lemon balm) a couple of hours before bedtime. Green tea contains L-theanine, a constituent that is thought to increase a neurotransmitter in the brain to help you relax.
• Meditate for 15 – 20 minutes each night (how about on the back porch or while you are in the shower).
• Keep a sleep diary to trend your sleep patterns over one week. Learn more about what is working in your routine or needs to change and adjust accordingly.
• Write down your anxieties, fears, worries, left over ‘to do lists’ on a large piece of paper. Place the paper in another room (not in your bedroom) and shut the door, thus giving yourself permission to let the day go.
• Gently stretch your muscles before bedtime.
• Keep a window cracked open in your bedroom for fresh air, weather permitting.
Improving Stage One Sleep (To Reduce A Chatty Mind)
• Practice slow, deep belly breathing to focus on the present and clear your mind.
• Repeat your favorite affirming statements to change the ‘negative tape’ to positive messages (e.g., I am grateful for family and friends, thankful, loved, forgiven, blessed, safe, strong, filled with faith; this too shall pass). This attitude also helps improve dream quality.
• Count sheep.
• Place a small organza lavender-filled sachet bag under your pillow or use a Q-tip to place a tiny drop of your favorite essential oil on the back of your pillowcase to create a relaxing environment for sleep.
• If you still can’t get to sleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed, read or do a quiet activity until you feel sleepy, then reset and try to fall asleep again.
Improving Stage Two Sleep (To Reduce Muscle Twitching, Tightness)
• Practice head-to-toe full body relaxation by relaxing each muscle group, one at a time.
• Ensure you are as comfortable as you can be with your pillow, linens, bed covers, mattress.
• Wear freshly laundered PJs.
For more information or to make an appointment for a one-hour health consultation via Skype, please email email@example.com.